It’s beginning to look a lot like NFL Draft time everywhere you go. Your favorite sports website updates its NFL Mock Draft once a week, just to give you a peek of predictions that probably won’t come true when all is said and done. All attempts at humor now put away for good, it must be pointed out that the Cleveland Browns are where they have been essentially every February since returning to the NFL for the 1999 regular season in that the club is not sure that it has a legitimate starting quarterback on the roster.
Johnny Manziel remains in rehab, which is apparently going well according to the Browns. Connor Shaw is going to get a chance, but things will have gone terribly wrong if he is Cleveland’s starting QB in Week 1. The Browns are likely going to have to look toward free agency if they are to upgrade over Brian Hoyer, who was, last November, the second least-accurate starting QB in all of the NFL. Will it be Josh McCown? Mark Sanchez? Somebody acquired in a trade?
Whoever the team picks up this spring, odds are that it will not be a rookie quarterback starting for the Browns come September. Cleveland is not in a position to mortgage the future in order to move up and grab the best quarterback of the upcoming NFL Draft class, and the only other QB worthy of being selected in the top-12 will not be there for the Browns. Any NFL Mock Draft predicting that Cleveland will make a splash via a trade can, as of the posting of this piece, be tossed aside. “All things are on table” may be the mantra of Browns general manager Ray Farmer and of Cleveland head coach Mike Pettine, but you can be sure of one thing:
That table is emptier than you think.
Cleveland Browns 2015 NFL Mock Draft 1.0
1. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: QB Jameis Winston, Florida State
The Bucs have to. They just have to, at least they do right now.
2. Tennessee Titans: DT Leonard Williams, USC
It is best player available for a team that believes it has a future quarterback in Zach Mettenberger.
3. Jacksonville Jaguars: DE Randy Gregory, Nebraska
Either Williams or Gregory lands in Jacksonville.
4. Oakland Raiders: WR Amari Cooper, Alabama
Here is a hoped-to-be safety blanket for Derek Carr.
5. Washington Redskins: LB Dante Folwer, Florida
Would the ‘Skins overdraft for a defensive player? Of course they would, silly.
6. New York Jets: QB Marcus Mariota, Oregon
There is no way the Jets pass on Mariota if he falls unless he has some awful auditions.
7. Chicago Bears: DT Danny Shelton, Washington
This is maybe the easiest pick thus far. The Bears have the need, and Shelton is a fit.
8. Atlanta Falcons: LB Vic Beasley, Clemson
Maybe it’s Fowler. Maybe it’s Beasley. Either way, Atlanta could use the help at the position
9. New York Giants: OT Brandon Scherff, Iowa
The Giants have to protect Eli Manning at all costs. Drafting one offensive lineman may not be enough.
10. St. Louis Rams: OT Andrus Peat, Stanford
Even if Sam Bradford isn’t with the Rams, St. Louis could use the help up front.
11. Minnesota Vikings: WR DeVante Parker, Louisville
Here is some offensive help for you, Teddy Bridgewater.
12. Cleveland Browns: WR Kevin White, West Virginia
REMINDER: My first Browns NFL Mock Draft is not necessarily a prediction of what I think will happen as much as it is an opinion on what Cleveland should do. Whatever Farmer has to say about how he values/does not value drafted wide receivers in the first round, even he cannot deny that his roster is desperately lacking talent at the position. Some may point out that the Browns could find help in free agency. They could, but they are not finding a No. 1 WR before the NFL Draft.
Heck, they may not find one at all until 2016.
White most likely will not serve as an immediate replacement for Josh Gordon, but the Browns need a target man who is over 6-foot. With tight end Jordan Cameron seemingly running away from any contract offers made by Cleveland, Farmer could leave Browns fans threatening to protest if he plays it safe and goes with anything other than a play-maker with the twelfth overall selection. I’m sticking with WR in my NFL Mock Draft for now.
19. DT Eddie Goldman, Florida State
This prediction in my NFL Mock Draft is likely to change throughout February, March and April as player evaluations evolve. While the Browns would do well to go offense-offense with their two first-round selections, Pettine is a defensive mind. He couldn’t help himself when he moved down in the first round to select cornerback Justin Gilbert last spring, and I would, as of the middle be February, be stunned if Pettine didn’t get at least one defensive player at either No. 12 or No. 19.
None of that is to suggest that the Browns do not need to bolster its defensive front; quite the opposite, in fact. The Cleveland run defense fell apart with the loss of Phil Taylor, so much so that it became the worst unit against the run in all of the NFL by the time all was said and done. It’s WR and then DT in my first Browns NFL Mock Draft.
That could flip or change entirely before the end of April comes around.
Zac has been covering the Cleveland Browns, New York Giants and National Football League for a variety of websites since 2006. He is a member of the Pro Football Writers of America.